Prather’s Pick: An old but super book
I’m used to browsing the library and bookstores for book review candidates, but lately, with so many places closed down, my browsing has slowed down. This week I searched through my own library of books and found an old favorite by James Herriot.
Herriot was a veterinarian in Yorkshire, England for more than fifty years. He died in 1995. Besides his practice, Herriot wrote at least twenty books for adults and children, all about his experiences with animals. He is perhaps best known for three books, the first being “All Things Bright and Beautiful.” This week’s little book is made up of ten stories from his other books. “Animal Stories” was illustrated, in what appear to be watercolors, by Lesley Holmes.
The book begins with a touching introduction by James Herriot’s son, Jim Wright. The ten stories that follow celebrate Herriot’s experiences with Blossom, the cow; Suzie, the dog (and her puppies); Dorothy, the goat; and others. The book begins with the story of “Herbert, the Orphaned Lamb.”
It’s March and lambing season is underway. Herriot is busy helping farmers with lambing problems. This particular day he has been called to Rob Benson’s farm where there are two cases of problems. That’s when he meets Herbert.
Actually, Herbert introduces himself. Just as Herriot is delivering a lamb, Herbert, a cute little lamb with a black and white face, dodges under the veterinarian’s arm and begins to nurse on the mother who is giving birth. The farmer explains that Herbert’s mother wouldn’t have anything to do with her baby, and since that time the lamb has been getting by because he steals milk from the other ewes. It’s possible that he even steals from his own mother after dark since she is feeding Herbert’s sibling.
A few days later Herriot is called back to the Benson farm. A dog had gotten in with the sheep and run them. Now pregnant ewes lie all over the pasture—fifty of them in all. When the veterinarian arrives he finds them all alive and not wounded. The problem is that the ewes have a calcium deficiency, and when they were stressed, they collapsed.
Herriot and the farmer quickly inject the sheep with calcium, and as they do, each one “comes to,” and they save the sheep. However, a few days later one ewe is about to deliver dead lambs. Herriot goes to the farm once more. The poor ewe is in bad shape. She has no babies, no interest left in life. But then there’s little Herbert, the tough little orphan who has to struggle to survive. Would the ailing ewe claim him?
Herriot’s works are written in a caring, gentle, and sometimes humorous voice. They’re wonderful, and I’m thankful that I came upon his books once more.
“Animal Stories” was first published in Great Britain. This week’s hardcover book was published in the U.S. by St. Martin’s Press in 2015 (second printing). The book costs $18.99.
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